Finding the whine: KRK audio app

Tinnitus or noisy electronics? Either one could drive you crazy – here’s how to find the cause

One of the disadvantages of lockdown (let’s be honest, it’s not made much difference to how much time you spend lurking behind the computers and not leaving the house) is spending hours working from home surrounded by electronics. Really advanced geeks or electronic musicians are probably bombared with more EM radiation than any 5G mast can deliver…

Naturally this post is inspired by a problem. A month of WFH at my normal desk means a month of not really moving away from the forest of wall-warts and soap-on-a-rope PSUs that power my synths, gadgets and random old laptops. Tinnitus set in, and as it does, got to the point of crawling the walls trying to escape the electronic crickets living in my head.

Science, of course, is better than trepanning and earplugs. My monitor speakers – KRK Rockit RP5 G4s – came with a free app to help set them up and EQ them. KRK Audio Tools includes a little spectrum analyser app that uses the iPhone’s microphone to help you choose an EQ setting.

But it has another use. You can drag a marker to a frequency, and it makes it really easy to find what’s whining in your house. iPhone microphones are particularly sensitive, it seems; there are plenty of other options.

So if your ears are ringing in your cave of solitude, start off by finding out what your brain’s playing in your head…

Finding the frequency of your tinnitus (or matching what you can hear from your electronics)

Audionotch has a decent tool for figuring out your hearing range (don’t trust the countless YouTube ear-age ones, they can’t reproduce the requencies consistently across all devices, if at all) – the idea being that you can find the frequency of your tinnitus and then ‘notch’ recordings to blend it in and hopefully, retrain the brain.

Isolate the frequency, set the guide on KRK audio tools (most equipment that’s driving you nuts will be in the 12,000Hz to 15,000Hz range) and point your smartphone at every PSU, power strip, lighting fixture and photonic flea you can find in your room/house/lair.

See the big spike at the marked frequency? It’s not very loud, but it’s lurking in the background noise, just barely perceptible.

The culprit is an E-TEK ZDL1201500 – or to be more helpful, the PSU from my original Novation Circuit. It’s probably three years old now, and has been on 24/7 for at least the duration of lockdown.

The rest of the noise is computer fans, ambient noise and the sound of actually holding the phone. And the blue mark is courtesy of Apple’s ‘helpful’ annotation preview when taking screenshots, it doesn’t mean anything other than I’m clumsy.

Once unplugged, the detectable noise was gone, though the tinnitus takes a little longer to fade off. Knowing the cause is a huge relief, though that frequency is so unpleasant for me that I’ll be replacing the PSU anyway.